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Hip HIPA Hurray!

HIPA 10-year anniversary dinner
Photo by Mark Milstein
Click photo to enlarge

The Hungarian International Press Association (HIPA) has just celebrated its 10-year anniversary! I feel like a proud father. (The creation of HIPA and the organization of its initial meetings was largely the brain power and elbow grease of myself and Hungarian publicist Ferenc Blaskovics.)

I don't actually recognize many from the photo of the event beside Kester (standing in the back), Duncan Shiels (seated, left), Florence La Bruyere (seated, right) and Adam LeBor (standing, back right corner). A few other faces look familiar (I know I know the guy in the red shirt all the way to the right, but I can't place him (is that Nick Thorpe?)). Please ID any others you can.

Continue reading below to see Kester Eddy's email account of the anniversary party (Kester is HIPA's newly elected president), as well as some of my own recollections of the early days of HIPA that I sent to Kester as an email for him to read to those assembled.

Kester's write-up:

From the feeback last night everybody seemed to enjoy it, certainly seemed a great atmosphere to me, so thanks to everyone who came and helped make it go.

For those who did not make it, we had around 30 faces, some from pre-history (Nick Thorpe, Duncan Shiels, Florence La Bruyere, Tibor Vidos, me....) to recent arrivals (Mark Milstein, Gareth Corsi...) with a smattering from all years in between. Agi and Eszter (of course), and Amar, whose staff did a great job on the catering side. (At the end we had a group photo or two, including all the restaurant staff. The cooks in particular seemed thrilled to be acknowledged and invited out for their picture to be taken with the group. Thanks Mark.)

I originally invited Amar to say a few words about the cuisine, but he said let it speak for itself, so after tucking in for an hour Duncan and I gave a short, very potted history of HIPA's first decade, including pre-natal stage, with some input from Rick Bruner via email.

Florence added a little known anecdote about Medgyessy which nearly meant an end to diplo relations between Budapest, HIPA and Paris, and Nick stood up to say even his wife thinks we are a good bunch (so we can fool people after all).

Whether many of us will be here to commemorate the twentieth birthday of HIPA I don't know, but I wonder if we can turn this date (well, say the last Friday in January) into a regular event ?

That way, old hands thinking of visiting Budapest around this time could actually plan any such trip around the event.

Here, meanwhile, are some of my own recollections of the early days of organizing HIPA, from an email I wrote to Kester before the event:

As for HIPA, by all means, give them my regards. The only anecdote that stands out in my mind about the whole thing was my forgetting to show up at the inaugural meeting. To remind you, HIPA was actually, as I recall, the idea of Hungarian political publicist Ferenc Blaskovics, and I eagerly went along with it -- or we both had a similar idea simultaneously, or something. I did my part to rally my foreign-press contacts to attend the kick-off meeting. I think we might have had a brainstorming session or two (in some beery pince, I vaguely recall) first to assure ourselves there was indeed interest. So we then scheduled the official first meeting at which we would elect officers, etc.

Somehow, however, I was scheduling two things simultaneously -- a reporting junket / vacation with Adi, and this HIPA meeting, and I failed to observe they conflicted. I was sitting on a train down to Slovenia when I suddenly sat up and shouted, "*$&@! What's the date?" Meanwhile, back in Budapest, so I've been told, they sat around waiting for me for 45 minutes, assuming I would chair that meeting, till Duncan stepped up and volunteered. Naturally, he was subsequently elected president, which I never regretted, as he did a great job leading it that first year and I had more than enough on my plate back then. Anyway, certainly an amusing start to things, from my point of view, in retrospect, anyway.

Also, I remember cooking a Thanksgiving dinner in the restaurant of the Hungarian Press Club for HIPA members and Hungarian Press Club members, some 75 people or something, as I recall. I was most grateful that not a single American besides my dad showed up, so they couldn't observe how far off a real traditional Thanksgiving dinner it was. Was working with the head chef of the Hungarian Press Club, who was completely baffled by the point of this odd meal. Worst was the pumpkin pie, cooked not in small round pie pans, as it should be, but in large industrial rectangular pans. The pie crust (always the hardest part of a pie -- I always buy them pre-made in the store here when I make pie these days) was like shoe leather. All the diners, however, seemed to be very impressed. Or, at least they were very polite about it.

Would love to hear the recollections of any of the rest of you on this (especially Duncan, as he saved my bacon that night), or comments on how it has progressed since then.

Rick E. Bruner | Gen Expat Life Updates, People, Pictures | Feb 4, 2004 | Comments (0)